From the Epistolae et Evangelia (c. 1540) to the Espejo divino (1607)

Indian Latinists and Nahuatl Religious Literature at the College of Tlatelolco

  • Andrew Laird Brown University


In 1536, fifteen years after the Spanish conquest of Mexico, the Imperial College of Santa Cruz was founded in Santiago Tlatelolco, an Indian enclave to the north of Mexico City. The students at the college, who were drawn from native elites, received an advanced education in Latin from Franciscan missionaries. The present discussion will explain why such a training was provided to those indigenous youths, and clarify the nature of their accomplishments (1). A discussion of the translations of biblical texts into Nahuatl made at the College of Santa Cruz (2) will be followed by a survey of original religious texts produced there in the Mexican language, many of which had identifiable Latin precedents (3). The concluding section then offers some tentative general reflections on the part played by Latin Christian humanism in shaping early Nahuatl literature, arguing that it bears some comparison to the way Latin had already underscored the development of vernacular literature in early modern Europe (4).